I wrote earlier about project management and administration skills that have can be invaluable in a number of public history roles. Since moving into the Researcher/Curator role in February I’ve also had an opportunity to continue to expand a range of exhibition, design, and outreach practices.
Visualizing space and display design have always been something I have found challenging. These tasks are still challenging, but like any skill I’ve found that the more opportunities I have to practice these skills the easier they end up being. Some of basic exhibition and design practices that can be valuable to public history practitioners looking to expand their skill set include:
- Start small. Curating an entire exhibit from scratch can be overwhelming. Filling a display case on a set theme can be a good place to start gaining practice in display creation.
- Have a mentor. Installation and display design can involve a lot of hands on work. The best way to learn these skills is to do them and having someone around who is familiar with common practices can be a godsend.
- Familiarize yourself with basic tools and ‘handyman skills.’ That home renovation you’re undertaking might have more value than you know — mudding holes in drywall, hanging artwork, cutting acrylic, building basic shelves, etc are all skills which can be used during exhibit install.
- Learn how to plan things out to scale using graph paper. Or how to use Sketchup or a similar program to map out an exhibition place.
- Following museum or art gallery listservs can be helpful. There are is also a wealth of material in many of these listsev archives which can be useful when looking to come up with options for a specific problem. (Eg. what type of mount to use when hanging artwork that is mounted on plexi and foam core).
- Proofreading and writing skills are key to creating informative and concise exhibit text.
If nothing else this whole experience has made me take way more of an interest in the house renovations and building projects that partner is undertaking.